Is a manual food processor a good alternative to an electric one?
Published Apr. 3, 2019.
Manual food processors and choppers are meant to make kitchen prep easier by dicing, mincing, grinding, and blending small amounts of raw or cooked ingredients without electricity. They're compact, making them portable and easy to store. They resemble salad spinners: You either turn a crank or pull a cord to rotate a blade positioned inside the processor's workbowl. The more you turn or pull, the finer the chop.
We knew from the outset that these gadgets could never replace our favorite full-size food processor, the Cuisinart Custom 14 Cup Food Processor, as they can perform only a limited set of tasks. Like small food processors, they lack the size and the power to handle sticky doughs, and they won't entirely eliminate the need for a knife—you'll still need to cut food into pieces small enough to fit inside the workbowl. And unlike most electric food processors, these manual food processors don't have feeding tubes, so you can't use them to make mayonnaise or other sauces that call for introducing liquids gradually.
Still, they are inexpensive; the products in our lineup ranged in price from just over $16.00 to just under $40.00. At that price, we thought, a manual food processor might be a worthwhile tool for small tasks such as chopping, mincing, and pureeing when we don't want to pull out the big guns. So we bought seven widely available manual food processors and choppers and used them to chop, dice, and mince onions, parsley, and carrots. We also used them to make pesto, salsa, and guacamole. Two models had cranks and five had pull cords; workbowl capacities ranged from 2 to 6 cups.
Right from the start, we realized that workbowl size was an issue. In small models with capacities of just 2 to 3 cups, we couldn't chop a whole medium onion in one go; we had to process it in two or three batches. And while all the machines could technically fit a full batch of every recipe we tried, we had to squeeze the food into the smaller models; guacamole or salsa ingredients sitting at the top of the crowded bowl weren't incorporated into the food churning below.
Unfortunately, even basic tasks were often beyond the manual food processors' capabilities. In general, the bigger the cut we were going for, the less consistently sized the pieces were, regardless of whether the models worked by crank or pull cord. Across the board, the models chopped onions and carrots into irregular, erratically sized pieces. Part of this had to do with the position and size of the blades. As we'd seen in previous food processor testings, models with relatively large gaps between the ends of the blades and the walls of the...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.